Welcome to our regular update on the progress we are making together to help people and nature thrive.
In this issue, find out about action being taken on plastic pollution, the climate crisis, endangered species and more.
An end to plastic pollution is now in sight after countries from around the world unanimously agreed at the UN Environment Assembly to develop a legally binding treaty. Pressure has been mounting on governments to take action, given the harmful impacts of plastic pollution on people and nature. A big thank you goes to more than 2.2 million people around the world who signed a WWF petition on the issue, together with the 120 global companies and more than 1,000 civil society organizations that have also backed calls for a treaty. WWF commits to supporting the work needed to finalize this historic treaty by 2024, urging the world’s governments to act strongly and decisively to ensure plastic production and consumption has as little impact on the environment as possible. Marco Lambertini, WWF International Director General, said: “This requires not just any treaty but one with clear and strong global standards and targets that will create a level-playing field that incentivizes nations to abide by common rules and regulations while also penalizing harmful products and practices.”
Hundreds of well-known brands joined WWF on World Wildlife Day (3 March) to highlight how empty a #WorldWithoutNature would be. Over 330 companies, sports teams and other organizations removed references to the natural world in their names and logos for the day – from the Timberland tree logo and Aston Villa football club's lion badge to WWF’s iconic panda. This global awareness-raising effort, which generated 107 million impressions on Twitter using the #WorldWithoutNature hashtag, comes as governments from around the world negotiate a new global action plan for nature in the coming decade. Concerned about the current lack of ambition, WWF is calling on world leaders to use this opportunity to deliver an ambitious plan that puts nature on the path to recovery. Human activities have led to a catastrophic loss of nature, with wildlife populations falling on average by 68% since 1970. And yet, we rely on the natural world for everything from providing food and fresh water to supporting the livelihoods of many millions of people.
A new WWF-backed coalition aims to ensure the much-needed shift to renewable energy doesn’t unintentionally harm the natural world. It’s vital, of course, that we stop using fossil fuels if we are to tackle the climate crisis but perhaps less well known is that any power generation project, even renewables, can cause environmental harm. The new CLEANaction coalition will call for any proposed renewable energy project to be carefully assessed for its impacts on nature, and for the least damaging options to be prioritized. A broad partnership of organizations also backs this new coalition, including the Alliance for Rural Electrification, Birdlife International, ICLEI-Cities Biodiversity Center, the International Renewable Energy Agency and The Nature Conservancy.
Did you know that the climate and nature loss crises are interlinked? Climate change is a key driver of nature loss, while action to reverse the loss of nature will help prevent even worse climate impacts on people and wildlife than are already inevitable.
Croatia has seen welcome news on our efforts to tackle one of the biggest but least well-known threats to rivers around the world: sand mining. Globally, tens of billions of tonnes of sand and gravel are mined each year to meet the demand for construction and land reclamation – leading to harmful impacts for freshwater wildlife and the people who depend on rivers for food, livelihoods and more. That’s why WWF-Adria and other organizations took legal action last year against a Croatian government decision to allow 460,000 m3 of sediment to be excavated from the River Drava. Over 12 months on, and after an initial court ruling against us, the High Administrative Court has finally halted the excavation work. Sediment was extracted from the Drava for a year and a half so it remains to be seen how much damage was done. However, the decision sets an important precedent and highlights the threats posed by unsustainable sand and gravel mining.
How can we reduce the amount of planet-harming greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere? The groundbreaking new WWF-backed net-zero corporate standard is helping companies to play their part. Developed by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), an organization that we helped to found, this new framework will help companies set scientifically-sound net-zero targets for greenhouse gas emissions. Companies adopting the standard must halve their emissions by 2030 and aim to achieve close-to-zero emissions by 2050. Any other impossible-to-eliminate emissions must be neutralized through measures that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Since 2015, the SBTi has been working with companies – over 2,600 to date – to set emissions targets in line with what the latest climate science says is necessary to limit global warming. The most recent analysis shows that companies with such science-based targets have reduced their combined emissions by 25% since 2015.
Years of overfishing have cast a shadow over the future of the endangered shortfin mako shark, with numbers nosediving by 79% over the past 70 years in the North Atlantic Ocean. So it’s great to report that, after years of advocacy by WWF and others, 52 tuna-fishing nations and the EU have finally agreed to support recovery efforts in the North Atlantic . This is the first ever shark or ray recovery programme to be adopted by a regional fisheries management organization. Measures agreed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) include requiring tuna fleets for the next two years to release all shortfin mako sharks they catch, and not to trade any that have died. We believe these measures can help the shortfin mako shark recover and are now urging ICCAT to immediately introduce and enforce the programme. We are also calling on regional tuna fisheries management organizations in other parts of the world to introduce similar measures to address the catastrophic decline of many shark and ray species.
2022 is the Year of the Tiger, and we have some good news to report on this endangered species: the long-term decline in wild tiger numbers has finally been reversed. This hard-fought conservation success story has its origins in the last Year of the Tiger in 2010, when the 13 countries with wild tigers agreed to double their numbers. And it has proved to be a turning point. The past decade has seen successful conservation action in several countries across Asia although historic threats, ranging from habitat destruction to illegal wildlife trade, have not gone away. While the global estimate for wild tigers may be on the rise, their numbers continue to decline in Southeast Asia with the species now likely to be extinct in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam. So we’ll continue our recovery efforts and urge others to do the same.